When you're in pain of any degree, it can be tempting to avoid exercising. But inactivity leads to stiffness and low stamina as well as reduced strength and range of motion, all of which can exacerbate existing chronic conditions. Regular exercise is shown to improve our overall health, reduce pain and boost our energy and overall quality of life.
We have put together a selection of exercises that you can try at home, all that are gentle and suitable for those with existing conditions. We recommend beginning any exercise routine slowly and monitoring your symptoms mindfully so that you find a regime that supports your wellbeing, helps you manage your ongoing condition and lets you notice any changes in your pain. By beginning your regime at home you control to decide the right duration, time of day and intensity at which to try the activities.
It is important to work with and consult your physical therapist or doctor when embarking on a new regime of exercise, and to remember that it isn't a ‘quick-fix' but rather part of an ongoing self-care regime that you can create to support the management of your condition and overall wellbeing.
These exercises are clinically supported options for increasing your activity levels and managing the high pain levels associated with chronic illness or injury; improving your physical and mental health.
Time to read: 7 minutes
Walking is perhaps the most accessible form of exercise, as there are few medical conditions that make it unfeasible, taking it up it doesn't require any equipment and it comes at no financial cost.
Walking is relatively low-impact and will engage muscles in your core, back and legs, improving balance, reducing stiffness and increasing circulation of the blood around the body. It has been shown to reduce joint pain, particularly in your hips and knees, lubricating and strengthening the muscles that support the joints. Studies have also found that a regular walking routine lowers chronic lower back pain and increases bone density, reducing your risk or osteoporosis and other degenerative conditions.
Walking outside will bring the mental benefits of increased time in nature and increases in your vitamin D production, that in turn themselves, are both shown to improve energy levels and experiences of pain.
The weather is perhaps the biggest limiting factor to taking up walking, so it's important to prepare for it with sunscreen and a hat if it's sunny out, or in wet and wintry conditions you should wrap up appropriately and wear sturdy shoes with good grip. As with any form of exercise it's important to know your limits: bring any canes, sticks or walkers that you require; and go at your own pace!
Zumba is ideal for aerobically exercising with existing medical conditions or chronic injuries, particularly for those with joint problems. Zumba offers higher intensity training that is good for cardiovascular health, improves stamina and core strength, all without jarring your joints, due to its fluidity of movement. The lower impact exercises are found to improve flexibility in limbs that are affected by conditions such as Arthritis and improve the walking abilities of those with more severe functional disabilities.
Attendees report that the vibrant music and dancing improves their mood, lowering stress and making them smile. Studies have also found that by following a 12 week Zumba program, participants reported a decrease in chronic pain severity and interference, and associated feelings of fatigue, depression and anxiety.
Strengthening your muscles doesn't need to be done at a bodybuilder level to make a real impact on your muscles and joints. Strengthening the muscles in your body will take pressure off your joints when in use, protecting weaker areas such as old injuries and reducing their experienced pain from the reduction in everyday strain.
There are many small, affordable sets of weights on the market for home use or alternatively people use home found substitutions such as canned food, filled water bottles or buckets with garden soil in, to name a few examples, adjusting the weight to what is comfortable and needed. Some find adding small ankle or wrist weights for periods can be useful, to maximise strength improvements from everyday movements such as walking or reaching. Alternatively, you can train to great effect using your own body weight, with programmes designed to maximise your own bodies resistance.
We recommend finding an experienced trainer to support you with embarking on these regimes. It is crucial in instances of serious injury or chronic illnesses that your doctor or physiotherapist is consulted before the undertaking of a weight training regime, and that you discuss what kinds of exercises and weights are best for your body.
Yoga has been practised over many centuries, with its proven results in physical and mental health. Physically these include increased flexibility, muscle strength, tone, respiration ability, cardiovascular health, energy and overall athletic performance; metabolism balance and weight reduction; greater muscle strength for injury prevention. Mentally, participants report a reduction in stress, pain and feelings of anxiety and depression, with improvements in sleeping, immunity, concentration mental clarity and calmness.
Yoga practise is available at all ability levels, making it highly scalable for a long term regime that continues to challenge your capabilities as you improve. Even someone who is bedridden can benefit from the meditative aspects of yoga and participate in breathing exercises and engage their muscles with passive movements (tensing and relaxing muscles while stationary).
Some movements in yoga are considered too extreme for all participants, and many involve the spine and other joints, so it is important to begin gently under the instruction of a qualified trainer, paying attention to your body and it's limits.
Pilates is another great exercise which does not require any or much equipment for you to enjoy and partake in, whilst showing excellent health benefits. Pilates training focuses on core strength, balanced muscle development, flexibility and joint motion, building strength without bulk as it trains the internal supporting muscles. Pilates has been proven to be particularly beneficial for those who suffer from back pain, improving spinal alignment and posture; supporting a full body workout with minimal joint impact. It is also shown to effectively improve blood circulation, immunity, energy levels and stamina.
Much like yoga, Pilates integrates breath work, promoting mindfulness. This in turn in isolation, is shown to support pain reduction with the effects of becoming more in tune to your body, mind and condition and what supports you personally.
We recommend following the instruction of a qualified trainer.
Tai Chi is an alternative exercise system that cultivates mindfulness alongside physical exercise. It is considered to be very age and ability inclusive, and its slow, deliberate movements make it perfect for anyone looking for a gentle whole-body exercise routine.
It has been found to improve muscle strength, balance and flexibility that has clinically been shown to reduce the likelihood of falls in older and vulnerable people. In those with existing conditions such as Arthritis, neck pain and Fibromyalgia, participants reported improved symptoms, less pain and increased physical function.
This is alongside respiratory and cardiovascular function improvements, enhanced sleep quality, cognitive function and immune system responses. Unlike more high intensity exercises such as walking or jogging, Tai Chi is also found to promote increased physical longevity, whilst offering a gentler level of exertion.
Foam rolling can look challenging but it can be one of the most therapeutic forms of recovery and injury prevention. Foam rolling is shown to improve your exercise training ability and increase future muscle performance. Likewise it is also shown to decrease pain, eroding muscle stiffness that is a leading cause of muscle pain and promoting flexibility.
The benefits of foam rolling have to do with the mobility of the fascia. Fascia is a fibrous layer of connective tissue that surrounds all of the muscles in our body. Without proper mobility, fibers of the fascia become cross linked and they bind to muscles and nerves, inhibiting normal motion and causing pain. If we don't stay on top of our flexibility in our muscles, it will affect our joint movements and therefore lead to incorrect technique and further injuries.
The good thing about a foam roller is that it can get right into your deeper tissue, like a massage but without the need of someone else physically having to be there.
The above exercises are some great options for increasing your activity levels and managing the high pain levels associated with chronic illness or injury. If you identify as having a long-term or chronic illness that causes physical pain and discomfort, we would encourage you to give one or more of these exercises a try. Incorporating exercise into your life is by no means a cure or a quick solution to health issues, but it has been clinically shown that it can improve both your physical and mental health.
The benefits of KYMIRA when exercising with a chronic injury or condition
KYMIRA products provide the ideal support for beginning a new exercise regime, particularly for those with existing chronic conditions and injuries. With the patented infrared technology built into the clothing themselves, they are medically certified and clinically proven to support you with pain relief, improved temperature regulation, increases to circulation, cellular energy production and decreases in potential injury occurrence. Clothing is designed for exercise and casual wear, worn by athletes, recoverees and sufferers alike.